Sweden's once flourishing pharmaceutical testing industry has been decimated in recent years, suffering an 85-percent drop according to new figures that industry experts describe as "deeply troubling".
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In 2005, more than 9,000 people in Sweden participated in clinical trials of new pharmaceuticals. Last year, however, only 1,300 people participated in such trials, corresponding to an 85-percent drop, new statistics from LIF, the trade association for Sweden's research-based pharmaceutical industry.
In addition, the number of clinical trials carried out in Sweden has been cut in half in the last ten years, with phase-1 trials, where drugs are tested on humans for the first time, dropping by 90 percent.
"This is deeply troubling," LIF head Anders Blanck said in a statement.
"This means that fewer Swedes are gaining access to new treatments and that the health care system misses out on the knowledge created through fully-financed clinical trials."
Since 2004, the number of people employed in the drug testing industry has dropped by nearly half, with 7,000 jobs disappearing from Sweden's pharma industry during the same period.
In previous decades, major pharmaceutical giants like Pharmacia and Astra brought a number of successful drugs to market following testing in Sweden, Sveriges Television (SVT) reported.
However, lower costs associated with testing new drugs in other countries, including Poland and Hungary, as well as India and China, has prompted pharmaceutical firms to cut back on testing in Sweden.
"Obviously, cost is an important factor when you're doing research. Developing drugs is really expensive. If you can find different ways of doing it cheaper, we are certainly going to do it," Anders Ekblom, head of AstraZeneca's operations in Sweden, told SVT.